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Nurses’ Experiences of Spiritual Communication with Seriously III Children

Journal title
Journal of palliative medicine
Publication year
2016
Author(s)
Ferrell, B.; Wittenberg, E.; Battista, V.; Walker, G.
Pages
1166-1170
Volume
19
Number
11

OBJECTIVE: The goal of this study was to explore nurse experiences in communication with children about spiritual topics in order to develop training in this area. BACKGROUND: Although spiritual care is essential in pediatric palliative care, few providers receive training about communication with ill children about spirituality. METHODS: Researchers developed a brief survey to prompt nurses to reflect on pediatric palliative care experiences that included spiritual discussions. Nurses attending training courses voluntarily submitted stories. Qualitative data were thematically analyzed by members of the research team, consisting of two researchers with expertise in palliative care, spirituality, and communication and two expert pediatric palliative care clinicians. RESULTS: Nurses’ spiritual conversations with children revealed that children question God and the reason for their illness, have a desire to talk about the afterlife as a way of understanding their limited lifespan, and to share descriptions of an afterlife, in these cases described as heaven. Nurses conveyed the importance of being present and engaging in spiritual communication with children. DISCUSSION: Communication training is needed and should prepare providers to respond to a child’s spiritual questioning, assist parents when the child initiates discussion about the afterlife, and help parent and child understand the spiritual meaning of their illness. Chaplains serve as spiritual care experts and can help train nurses to screen for spiritual distress, have greater competence in spiritual communication, and to collaborate with chaplains in care. Quality palliative care is incomplete without attention to spiritual care.

Research abstracts